The most neglected part of your business development strategy
January 31, 2011 | The Whetstone Group

I received an email from LinkedIn recently with a subject line indicating that nearly a third of the contacts in my network changed jobs in 2010. It got me to thinking about the most critical and neglected component of most firms’ business development strategy — database management.

Your database may contain all the companies that reside in your geographic footprint. If so, you must use your defined target market criteria to zero in on those companies that would be the best fit for your firm as clients based on industry, size, ownership, etc. But that’s only step one.

The mantra of professional services firms is: “Ours is a relationship business“. Does a relationship happen between entities? I have a mortgage, but when I need something I don’t call “the bank”. I call Dave. When Dave left the bank, I moved my business with him.

Your database should contain updated information about the individuals at the companies you would most like to have as clients. And maybe not just one individual, but several who play different roles in the decision to hire your firm — influencer, decision maker, gatekeeper, etc. That’s step two.

Now, consider the fact that those individuals are not static. They don’t stay where they’re supposed to, and if you look away roughly a third of them (by my admittedly unscientific measurement) may take off on you. How can we prevent this from raining on our business development parade? More importantly, how can we use this as a business development opportunity?

If your list is already out of date — meaning you haven’t made any efforts to clean it up in, say, the past six months — a good exercise is to have someone call each company and ask if CFO is still the CFO, the CEO is still the CEO, etc. Make these changes and add any new contacts you discover to the list. Yep, that’s step three.

Within the target list, you probably have a handful or two of individuals that you would like to get to know on a deeper level — and who you would really, really like to land as clients.

Social media (as we have recently discovered) can be an excellent tool to help keep this targeted prospect list updated. When you receive those messages indicating that someone in your network has updated his/her profile — don’t ignore it. As a matter of fact it’s a good idea to check in on your network at least a couple times a week to make sure you don’t miss anything. If you see someone has changed positions post a congratulatory note on their profile. Better yet, call him or her with congratulations and offer to find out more about the new position and employer over lunch. And don’t forget to update your firm’s marketing database with any new contact information. Steps four, five, six, etc…

If your targeted prospect leaves it’s not only important to follow that person, but also to make sure you know who his or her replacement is. You can probably find this out by a quick phone call to the company’s receptionist.

Promotions within the same company can be treated similarly. Ask this person how their role has changed. Are they overseeing any new areas? Do they have additional decision making authority? Again, makes sure your list is updated internally — especially titles. Receiving something in the mail that doesn’t acknowledge his/her accomplishment is pretty off-putting to a lot of people.

All business development efforts, whether virtual or not, are fundamentally dependent on keeping your data updated. Implementing a few of these ideas will profoundly improve the results of your business development efforts.